So here I am, starting to write a Blog. Maybe I’m nuts, maybe not.
One half of me recalls an elderly uncle who, when he captured a skunk in an open cage, said out loud to himself, “Okay you old fool. What do you do now?” Good question. But the other half of me thinks that the “what-to-do-now” part should be fun.
Anyway, I have a purpose and that’s why I’m calling my Blog Return to Paradox. You see, once upon a time (1986-1991) I wrote a weekly newspaper column called Down Paradox Lane which wandered from subjects such as backyard coons and squirrels to more mundane affairs such as political folly and general idiocy. I enjoyed writing that. It not only earned a few bucks but was, yes, fun. And I liked the feedback.
So I say to myself why not take a look at some of that old stuff and see if what bugged me, amused me, challenged me then, is still around today?
If it is, then what might that say about the evolution or otherwise of our society?
But don’t worry. I have no intention of being all hung up on that word “paradox”. (One example I like is the situation of being in need of something which can only be had by not being in need of it. Like the”pursuit of happiness” as mandated by the American Constitution.) Anyway, the word can hang here at the top of the page like a royal banner implying the Queen is in residence although she may have slipped out the back door to go shopping. Even so, the “P” stuff is all around us, like wi-fi. It permeates the atmosphere and, in political-strength doses, rattles our brains.
I have no intention of always looking to the past. How boring. There’s lots of odd stuff happening in the here and now. For instance, at any given time I may decide to ignore the past and simply take a look at something that puzzles me in current affairs. Let’s say, as a sample of the possibilities, that I’m musing about the fact that, although Omar Khadr may be returned from Guantanamo to Canada in a year or so his return has, up to now, been staunchly opposed by Stephen Harper.
There’s no need to expand upon Omar — or wait, maybe there is, our memories being somewhat overburdened these days. Omar — the Canadian boy soldier (for the wrong side) captured years ago in Afghanistan and held in Guantanamo contrary to international agreements governing the treatment of child soldiers — remember him? Sure you do.
But enough about Omar. Let’s take a look at Stephen Harper.
As Prime Minister, Stephen is a foster father of the country. I say “foster” because it’s a temporary position but never the less a very real one. And what’s a country if it’s not a family? An extended family, granted, but a family.
And what is one of the bedrock principles of Stephen’s Conservative Party, handed down from the Reform patriarchs? Why, it’s the principle of “family values” as laid forth in the Good Book itself.
Now take a look at the story of the Prodigal Son. The guy leaves home, goes abroad, leads a reckless and disgraceful life, and on returning is greeted with open arms by his father. The boy is rehabilitated (presumably) by forgiveness, compassion, and love. Come to think of it, though, this guy came home on his own. What was Dad supposed to do? Throw his own son in the slammer? Killing the fatted calf was a good ploy. Much face. But for years Stephen has been doing his best to prevent Omar from coming home, thereby losing face while preserving the calf. Maybe he didn’t think it through.
If I remember correctly, earnest Christians used to want the sinners to come home. Why else were we always singing, “There were ninety and nine in the field that lay in the shelter of the fold/ but one was out on the hills away/ far off from the gates of gold”? That heart warming song went on to tell how the good shepherd left the snug ninety-and-nine and went off to bring the lost one home. Now there was family value for you.
But not Stephen. Not for Omar.
That little current affairs “family values” mine could be excavated for more ore but let’s suppose I’d rather be more general and look at an old vein that still seems to be producing. So let’s go back to February1988 when I was worried about something called “growth”. It seems I had been listening to the then-current Minister of Finance deliver a budget and I had put my musings into a column entitled “The God of All”. If only for old times sake, let’s take a look at it now. (As a nod toward ethical journalism here and in the future I’ll indicate excisions, alterations, clarifications, etc. with a […] )
The God of All
[… ] I’ve voiced some concern before with any system that feels our lives should be totally “market driven” and that judges all success by the profit shown on the bottom line. I’ve even worried that Profit had become a god.
How naive I’ve been.
Listening to the Minister of Finance I realized that Profit is merely a Tory saint.
The Great God of our entire society is not Profit, but Growth. We all worship at his shrine, be we Right, Left, Middle or Mixed.
We all sing alleluia to Growth. We feel buoyant and optimistic when the Great God Growth (GGG) is healthy. We wring our hands when the GGG is weak.
We have even named a devil as the antagonist to our deity. The devil’s name is Stagnation.
We want the population to Grow so the market can Grow so demand can Grow so investment can Grow so productivity can Grow so the market can Grow, and the whole wheel of inter-related activities itself keeps Growing.
It’s great, it’s wonderful, and the GGG has indeed made his face to shine upon us.
We, the GGG’s disciples, have a truly enviable standard of living. We, the GGG’s faithful followers, live secure in the knowledge that if we worship faithfully and uncritically at the feet of our god, all will be well.
It’s a marvellous religion. It’s a shame that it can lead only to destruction.
Shucks, I don’t mean moral or spiritual destruction but simply plain, old fashioned physical destruction. (Since the physical destruction meted out by the GGG will be visited not upon us but upon our descendants, I suppose there might be a little touch of spiritual damnation included with it, but think of that as a side order.)
Drive down to Big TO and visit Fort York. Stand there in the middle of those few acres of ground with their modest fortifications and handful of barrack buildings and remind yourself that what you’re seeing was, 200 years ago, just about all there was to Big TO. The 200 years have made quite a change. The GGG and his disciples have been some busy.
What wonders will be wrought in his name in the next 200 years?We all know that the GGG loves to consume resources. Tiny voices in the wilderness keep reminding us that resources come to an end. But we, the GGG’s devoted servants, have faith that our god’s scientists will devise alternatives.
One resource for which there is no alternative is water.
Recently, I heard an interesting paper concerning the world’s water resources. The writer spent some time discussing the problems in the States caused by the depletion of fresh water supplies. In virtually all cases, the depletion could be traced to Growth, whether from sheer population pressure, or industrial use, or agricultural needs.
A truly chilling part of the presentation outlined various schemes that have been proposed, seriously but discreetly, for finding more fresh water, particularly for the American southwest. One grandiose scheme even pictures damming James Bay to make it a giant reservoir (more than half Canada’s water flows north) and then diverting from that reservoir so the waters could be re-routed south.
A diverting thought indeed! What a libation. The waters from the northern half of a continent poured out at the feet of the Great God Growth.
And after the GGG has used it, destroyed it, depleted it, exhausted it, then what? Melt the polar ice cap? Yes, indeed. We who worship the GGG even see that as a possibility.
And after that?
Well, there’ll be a brief time when we can admire the god’s clay feet. After that, I guess, comes death and destruction. Oh, not for the planet. The dear old planet can outlast us. And not for us, personally, because we’ll be long gone. But for our descendants. For mankind, womankind, babykind, all kinds.
In the months ahead we’re going to hear eulogies to Growth from all political parties and I, for one, am going to have a great deal of difficulty with those paeans of praise. I won’t be able to suppress the suspicion that the political high priests are all false prophets of a false religion. ♣
In spite of a recession-depression with thousands out of work or teetering on the brink it seems to me the mantra hasn’t changed. It is still the GGG who is supposed, eventually, to rescue us.
So let me see. For openers, what will it be — a little musing about family values? — or about species extinction? Come to think of it, letting the species go down the tube pretty well puts paid to the family, values or no values.
♣ The God of All
From Down Paradox Lane
Lindsay This week, Feb 16th, 1988
Copyright © Munroe Scott